From the Archives: Conductor Artur Rodzinski Dies at 64

From the Archives: Conductor Artur Rodzinski Dies at 64
A portrait of conductor Artur Rodzinski. (Los Angeles Philharmonic)

Artur Rodzinski, 64, who ranked among the world's great symphony conductors, died tonight at Massachusetts General Hospital, where he was being treated for heart disease.

His widow gave his age as 66. Most authorities list it as 64.


Just 10 days ago he had concluded a brilliant presentation of Wagner's opera "Tristan and Isolde" with the Chicago Lyric Opera Company.

For Rodzinski, it was a triumphant return to Chicago, where he had been abruptly dismissed 10 years ago as conductor of the Chicago Symphony.

Often Balky

Although he conducted most of the country's major orchestras, his tenure often ended in a huff. In 1947 he had quit the coveted job of boss of the New York Philharmonic because, he said, he felt hemmed in and hampered by the Philharmonic's businesslike manager.

Rodzinski was known as a great builder of orchestras. Time and again he took over run-down orchestras and in a few years, by cajolery, psychology and almost ruthless dedication, built them into the finest of artistic groups.

But many critics felt he lacked the sublime fire and expressiveness of a Stokowski or a Toscanini.

Hired by Stokowski

Rodzinski suffered a heart attack in Rome two years ago, and the famed heart specialist, Dr. Paul Dudley White, flew there to treat him. It was Dr. White who advised him to come here for treatment this time.

Rodzinski was born in the Dalmation town of Spalato, and spent his childhood in Lvov, in Southern Poland, now Russia.

Artur already was playing the piano at 6 and pursued music from then on with fanatical devotion.

In 1924, in Warsaw, he met Leopold Stokowski, who later hired him as assistant conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra.

Worked in L.A.

He later took over as conductor of the Los Angeles Symphony. After four years he quarreled with the manager and headed for Cleveland.


Toscanini heard one of his Cleveland radio broadcasts and recommended him for the 1937 Salzburg Festival in Austria.

In 1943 he took over the mighty New York Philharmonic, which had been going through a fallow period.

By 1947, the year he quit, Critic Virgil Thompson called the orchestra possibly the finest in the world.

Since his equally acrimonious departure from the Chicago Symphony in 1948, Rodzinski had taken a number of major conducting positions all over the world on a sort of free-lance basis.

Rodzinski's Biggest Stir Here Was Fire

Artur Rodzinski, 64-year-old symphony conductor who died last night of a heart ailment in Boston, was permanent conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra from 1929 until 1933.

But he created the biggest stir locally, perhaps, when he awoke in a flaming bed at the Biltmore the night after conducting "the death symphony," Tschaikowksy's "Pathetique," as a guest at the Philharmonic in February, 1950.

Previous to that evening's performance, he had made light of the superstitions surrounding Tschaikowsky's Sixth and had told the orchestra not to worry, that "I will take all the blame for playing the number."

The fire was extinguished before he was injured, and he explained that it may have been started by ashes from his pipe. He returned as a guest conductor at frequent intervals between 1933 and 1950.

He left his permanent position with the orchestra here to accept conductorship of the Cleveland Symphony, then went to the New York Philharmonic and Chicago Symphony Orchestra.